I recently had a client ask me how she could childproof her home in a way that made it look like “grown-ups still live here.” Excellent question, and one I can completely relate to. Here are a few ideas that have worked for me and my clients. I’ve concentrated only on the living and dining rooms to keep this post from becoming ridiculously long:
1. Leather, ultra-suede, dark denim and dark canvas are perfect kid fabrics. Cotton, silk, velvet and light-colored denim and canvas stain, rip and/or snag easily.
2. Avoid anything glass with the exception of your windows and picture frames. Glass vases, lamps, coffee tables, tabletop picture frames and knick-knacks are dangerous because they can be pulled down on your child or bumped into and knocked over. Decorating with coffee table books and wooden or bamboo bowls and sculptures are stylish alternatives.
3. Be very careful about your table and floor lamps. We had to remove all of our table lamps because my son kept using the cord to pull the lamp onto the floor, breaking the light bulb. And he knocked down the floor lamp a few times by tripping on the cord or pushing the lamp over. We finally had to snake the cord under a heavy piece of furniture and place the floor lamp between the wall and a heavy chair.
4. Coffee and end tables can be a problem because of their sharp corners. You can either use a rubber guard especially made for childproofing or replace the tables with fabric-covered ottomans. (And if those ottomans happen to have lift-tops for storage, you can hide all of the kids’ ugly plastic toys when company comes over!)
5. When choosing window treatments, avoid blinds or Roman shades with string pull cords and floor-length curtains. Obviously, the string pull cords are a strangulation hazard. Your child may try to swing on the floor-length curtains, thereby ripping the curtains, bending the curtain rod or pulling the entire curtain and rod down on him (I speak from personal experience). Good alternatives include cordless blinds, short curtains and shades that can be rolled up or folded up with snaps.
6. Use a screen around your fireplace and stash the fireplace tools, especially the poker, when you don’t have a fire burning.
7. If you have houseplants, keep them up high and away from a chair or bench that your child could use to climb up and grab them. For example, we had a plant on our piano that Nathan was able to reach by climbing up on the piano bench. Fortunately, he wasn’t interested in eating the leaves, but he was interested in grabbing handfuls of dirt out of the pot. As an alternative to live plants, you could try silk plants (good luck finding some that don’t look tacky). Otherwise, you could achieve a nature-inspired, organic look by decorating with rocks, seashells or bird nests, displayed up high and out of reach, of course.
1. Unless you plan to staple-gun your tablecloth to your table, I advise not using them. This is because with a good tug, your child can pull the tablecloth down, including everything glass and/or china sitting on it. Instead, you could decorate with fabric placemats or a table runner that doesn’t extend over the edge.
2. Avoid using anything breakable as a centerpiece. This is because your child can use the dining room chairs to climb up and grab the object. If you light candles for a special occasion, don’t leave them unattended for a second, for the same reasons.
If you are interested in seeing what childproofing devices are on the market, go to www.totsafe.com. They offer the best, most comprehensive selection of childproofing devices I’ve seen. This website may have the unintended effect of making you overly paranoid about all of the hitherto unknown “dangers” in your house, so consider yourself warned.